I read this story in a book titled “Only Fear Dies” by Barry Long and loved it.
Long ago, when people were less focused on their appearance than they are today, there was a man (maybe it was a woman, who knows?). He made himself an amazing mask that could make many faces and expressions. He would wear the mask and amuse himself by suddenly jumping in front of people just to see their reactions. The mask made different faces – crying, laughing, grimacing and scowling.
Obviously, his victims were shocked when they encountered the face, no matter what the expression. The man didn’t care how they reacted. His excitement came purely from their reactions. Of course, he knew he was himself behind the mask. To him, he was the joker and the joke was on them.
Initially, he would step out wearing the mask a couple of times every day. But the people’s reactions excited him so much that gradually, he just kept the mask on all day. Why take it off, he thought and he even started sleeping with it on.
Life went on. Years passed. The man enjoyed being behind the mask.
Then, one fine day, he woke up. He felt there was something missing in his life. He felt lonely.
He jumped up and stepped out in front of a lovely woman and fell in love with her. But the woman just screamed and ran off, frightened by the face. He ran after her calling for her to stop, frantically trying to take the mask off so she could see who he really was. But the mask wouldn’t come off. The man was horrified to find that the mask had fused onto his face. It had become his face.
Days passed. He tried to tell whoever he saw what had happened but no one believed him. Nobody cared. The truth was, they had all copied him. They had also put on masks of their own—they were excited about being who they were not. And like him, they had also become the mask.
Now, would you like a happy ending to this story?
Fine. So would I!
But the thing is—the happy ending is in your hands.
You are the person behind the mask.
The mask you are wearing is your personality.
Go look in the mirror.
Look at the faces you make.
Sometimes approving, sometimes disapproving.
Can you believe that’s you? Maybe not.
And so you glance at yourself in every mirror you see—just to reassure yourself that it is you.
Do you sometimes get the weird feeling of wanting to rip off that mask?
But it isn’t something people like to talk about because it seems silly.
But it is not silly, right? Not when you start being honest with yourself.
We carry the load of our personality—and sometimes it is a strain because it is a pretense.
Keeping up with it weighs us down and can be tiring.
We conveniently blame many things for the way we feel—our work, our relationships, our diet, our problems—and yet, it is so hard to admit that our own personality has cut us off from our natural selves.
This personality makes us worry and feel emotional.
It makes you moody and doubt yourself.
It confuses you – makes you afraid of the future, triggers guilt and regret about the past and restlessness with the present.
What to do?
Don’t you think it is time to rip off the mask? By using this shield, you have signed away your authority—allowing this personality to defend you when someone hurts you, threatens you, or criticizes you. Even when it makes you react insensitively at times, you see it as your protection, so you simply tolerate it, put up with it and even make excuses for it to yourself. And now, it has taken over your life and you don’t know if you’ll ever be free of it.
Here’s the thing. You don’t need this protection. Don’t be afraid to live without it. Believe you have the energy in you to live that life without the mask.
Are you willing to take off your mask?
Wednesday Wisdom is a series with short bursts of easy-to-consume wisdom in the form of stories, quotes, anecdotes, and humor.